The implementation of MARPOL Annex VI regulations reducing the global cap on sulphur emissions from ships creates a new set of challenges for shipowners. Beginning 01 January 2020, the sulphur content of marine fuels will be reduced to 0.50% when used onboard ships operating outside of designated emission control areas. The use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel is being developed as a serious alternative to the heavy fuel oil which is currently in use. LNG is virtually sulphur free and is able to meet the restrictions on nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in engine exhaust laid out in MARPOL Annex VI. A regulatory framework for the use of LNG as a marine fuel has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as the International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Other Low-Flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). Ships using LNG fuel have been designed and have proved successful in service.
In addition to these design requirements, the training of crew members operating gas fuel vessels is an integral component of the vessel’s safety. The IMO has adopted amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), which incorporates training requirements for crew members of gas fueled vessels. This training and certification, required by STCW Chapter V, Regulation V/3, is now a requirement for the crews of all gas fueled ships engaged in international trade, regardless of flag.
Based upon the course developed for United States (US) domestic requirements, the American Maritime Officers (AMO) Simulation Training Assessment and Research (STAR) Center worked with the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Maritime Administrator to prepare a course meeting the new requirements of STCW. The RMI is the world’s second largest ship registry, and the largest registry for gas carriers. The AMO STAR Center’s gas fueled vessel course was approved by the RMI in April 2018, and the RMI will be issuing the appropriate STCW endorsements to individuals completing the course. In addition to certification of the ship under the IGF Code, shipowners registering an LNG fueled vessel under the RMI flag now have the availability of an STCW approved course for their crews at the AMO STAR Center.